Lights, camera, FPL!
Tinker season is underway, and that means the return of the FPL Price Review Series. Just like last season, Andrew Gastelum (@gastelumEPL) and I will run through each position and highlight our favorite players in the FPL.com format. Having looked at goalkeepers, defenders and forwards, this season’s FPL Price Review Series comes to a close with an examination of the midfield options.
For the second straight season, Mohamed Salah (£12.5) is the most expensive midfielder. Though Salah is coming off a season which saw him share the Golden Boot and score the most points in FPL, his price has dropped by £0.5. Raheem Sterling (£12.0) and Sadio Mané (£11.5) are the only other players above £10.0. Beyond the big three, 10 FPL midfielders enter the season rated between £8.0 and £9.5, including newcomers Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bernardo Silva (all £8.0). Elsewhere, Ryan Fraser (£7.5) headlines the mid-price pool following a stellar breakout campaign. With four weeks before the start of the season, here are some positively priced midfielders ahead of 2019/20.
Bernardo Silva, Manchester City (£8.0)
Perhaps the most obvious option, Bernardo Silva seems aggressively under-priced if you consider how much is working in his favor for 2019/20. Coming off a season during which no Manchester City midfielder made more starts than Bernardo (31), the Portuguese international is the cheapest attack-minded midfield option the club has to offer. FPL managers don’t need to worry about Bernardo’s minutes dropping off despite the return of Kevin De Bruyne to full fitness since he left on the bench for just one of the seven matches the Belgian started last season. If anything, the 24-year-old could see even more minutes this time around. David Silva is entering his final season at City and Bernardo made a number of starts on the right wing during the latter stages of 2018/19.
The Portuguese midfielder’s nailed-on status in Manchester City’s high-powered attack gives him an edge over fellow £8.0 option Richarlison and Gylfi Sigurdsson. Although Sigurdsson provided more goals (13) and just one less actual assist than Bernardo (6) in 2018/19, he’s likely to regress. Bernardo, on the other hand, should have no issues bettering his 154 FPL points (12th MID) and 71 chances created (7th MID) from last season. Only three midfielders - Eden Hazard, Raheem Sterling and David Silva - received more passes in the final third than Bernardo (748), while his 1115 touches in the final third placed fifth at the position.
David Brooks, Bournemouth (£6.5)
A budget champion in his first Premier League campaign, Brooks has been bumped into the mid-price bracket. The 21-year-old provided 123 FPL points minutes last term, scoring seven goals and tallying five assists in 2263 minutes. Brooks is in line for an even more significant role in Bournemouth’s attack this season, and with Ryan Fraser now priced at £7.5, I see the former as the one to own.
Last season Fraser was nothing short of excellent. Only Raheem Sterling provided more assists Scotland international (14), who was the fifth highest scoring midfielder with 181 FPL points. However, if you look at how he and Brooks performed strictly from open play, the production gap isn’t nearly as large as you would expect. Brooks created 29 chances from open play, Fraser provided 41. Brooks averaged a shot on target every 113.8 minutes and had a goal conversion rate of 17.1%. Fraser averaged a shot on target every 126.8 minutes and had a goal conversion rate of 13.7%. If Brooks had stayed healthy (he played 895 fewer minutes than Fraser), those margins would have been even smaller. I’m not saying Fraser isn’t worth his price. Brooks is just a better deal.
Ayoze Pérez, Leicester City (£6.5)
One of the ten players who saw his position changed, Perez was reclassified as a midfielder after scoring 12 goals and 141 FPL points operating as a secondary striker and wide midfielder for Newcastle. The 25-year-old was set to be a popular pick following Newcastle’s decision to let loanee Salomon Rondon loan. Now, after his £30m move to Leicester City, Perez’s value has been boosted even further.
Perez’s success in 2018/19 came from his ability to poach chances inside the box opportunistically. All 12 of his goals and 44 of his 55 shots, six of which were from inside the six-yard box, came from inside the penalty. Perez’s numbers hold up when compared to some of the top forward options. He scored as many goals inside the box as Roberto Firmino, took more shots than Marko Arnautovic (41) inside the box and had as many efforts from inside the six-yard box as Marcus Rashford (6).
From a fantasy perspective, Perez couldn’t be walking into a better situation. Under Rodgers, Perez will likely play as an advanced midfielder in a 4-1-4-1 or out wide in the attacking trio behind Jamie Vardy in a 4-2-3-1. Swapping an overly defensive Newcastle side, which averaged 11.7 shots per game (13th in the PL) and scored just 42 goals (16th) last season, for an attack-minded Leicester is a recipe for another active FPL campaign. The Foxes ranked sixth in shots per game last season and showed massive attacking improvement following the appointment of Brendan Rodgers, notching 17 goals in the final ten matches. If Perez mirrors his 21.8% goal conversion rate this season, he’ll easily be a top-20 midfielder.
Christian Pulisic, Chelsea (£7.5)
Now sure, with new manager Frank Lampard and no Eden Hazard, Chelsea will look a lot different, but the opportunity should be there for Pulisic to seize a place in the team with both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek recovering from long-term injuries. Last season, under Maurizio Sarri, Chelsea was top five in shots and shots on target per game, as well as second in possession behind only Manchester City. The end of Sarriball and arrival of Lampard means the introduction of a new system, potentially the 4-2-3-1 he favored during his time at Derby County. The big things for Pulisic, regardless of the tactical approach, is the need for a ball-carrying playmaker to emerge and fill Hazard’s shoes.
The 20-year-old primarily played on the right wing during his four seasons at Borussia Dortmund but also saw time on the left. For the United States, this summer at the Gold Cup, he also showcased his ability from central positions playing off the forwards. Since Pulisic was limited to just 924 minutes across 20 appearances due to injuries last season, I’ve decided his career numbers from Dortmund are the best way to gauge his statistical output. In total, he supplied 13 goals and 18 assists in 5,138 minutes. He averaged a successful dribble every 27.6 minutes, shot every 34.2 minutes and a key pass every 49 minutes. Pulisic’s career successful dribbles rate was just off the pace of Wilfried Zaha last season. His minutes per shots rate and key passes frequency were also right on par with Willian (one shot every 42) and Andros Townsend (one key pass every 49.5) in 2018/19.
Don’t let the worries over a slow start scare you off Pulisic. He might not be a day one starter with Willian and Pedro still on the books, but his positional flexibility gives him a leg up in the battle for minutes. With plenty of goals and assists to be found in the wake of Hazard’s departure, Pulisic’s potential significantly trumps his £7.5 starting price.
Nathan Redmond, Southampton (£6.5)
Redmond provided six goals and four assists while averaging 1.9 shots and 1.4 key passes per match for Southampton last season. At face value, those numbers don’t jump off the page. What does pop, however, is the distribution of his attacking returns and underlying statistics when you compare his games under Mark Hughes against his time current manager Ralph Hasenhuttl.
During 15 matches under Hughes, Redmond went without an attacking return. He averaged 1.6 shots per game and played mostly out wide. Under Hassenhuttl, he notched all of his goals and assists and averaged 2.5 shots per match. The spike in Redmond’s production was due to Hasenhuttl’s decision to move the wide man into a forward role, as he operated up front in alongside Danny Ings in a 3-5-2 and underneath Ings in a 3-4-2-1. Thanks to the addition of summer signing Moussa Djenepo, who will likely play on the left wing, Redmond is well-placed to retain one of the spots up front this season. FPL managers trying to free up funds for premium forwards without sacrificing production in midfield should look at Redmond. As a midfielder who is expected to see most of his minutes as a striker, selecting him allows managers to field a 'fourth' forward for the modest cost of £6.5.
Andros Townsend, Crystal Palace (£6.0): Townsend has quietly strung together three solid FPL campaigns. The Crystal Palace winger racked up 116 points in 2016/17, scoring three goals and providing seven assists. In 2017/18, he only scored twice but tallied a career-best nine assists on his way to 121 points. Then, last season, he managed 135 points thanks to a career-high six goals and five assists. With a starting price of £6.0, and Wilfried Zaha edging closer to joining Arsenal, Townsend could once again be a budget-saving hero.
Anthony Martial (£7.5): The only issue here is Martial was in and out of the picture under Solskjaer last season. The Frenchman did, however, make a significant impact when given a chance. Martial was Manchester United’s joint-third top scorer, matching Marcus Rashford with ten goals, and finished as their third highest scorer in FPL with 122 points despite seeing 1,613 minutes of action. Should Solskjaer roll with a 4-3-3 formation and Daniel James need time to adjust like expected, then Martial could be a gem at £7.5.
@AdrianFRamos: How do the recent events at Newcastle affect Miguel Almirón’s value?
To say Newcastle is a mess would be an understatement. The sale of Ayoze Pérez and failure to retain Salomon Rondon means the club has lost their top two goalscorers from last season. Replacing Perez (12) and Rondon (11), who provided 54.7% of their goals in 2018/19, is made even more crucial when you realize that center-backs Fabian Schär (4) and Ciaran Clark (3) are now the highest scorers on the books. As if this wasn’t a big enough issue, the departure of Rafa Benitez means whoever takes over, which will likely be Steve Bruce, inherits the impossible task of getting Mike Ashley to open his chequebook.
The fallout has seen me not only remove Almiron from my initial list of midfielders but also my current FPL squad. As an assist dependent midfielder, I don’t see him getting consistent returns with Yoshinori Muto and Joselu leading the attack. Furthermore, a new manager means a new system as well as a new role. The silver lining here is his value in draft leagues. Almiron’s average draft position will be lower than expected while his peripheral numbers, specific shots and key passes, should increase given the lack of other attacking options.